Depending on the type of equipment needed, I first research possible suppliers using the interwebs. I then request more information from any possible suppliers that I may find. Then I'll contact a local rep to see if there's an identical piece of equipment within a short drivng distance that I can take a look at. I also use Trade Shows whenever possible because then you can look at equipment from more than one supplier and you have the oppourtunity to "Touch and Feel" each one.
For me, it's mostly b, c, and d. Google is a wonderful tool and you can find just about anything. Trade shows can be expensive, so I typically don't go to those, but if or when I do, I have an idea of exactly what I'm looking for. What are you looking for?